Summary: How can we cope when God lets things go on in our lives that are heart-rending — and it feels like He shows no interest in our plight?
The Insomnia Psalm
1. Comedian W.C. Fields once offered a cure for insomnia: get lots of sleep!
“One of my favorite sleep deprived stories describes a woman in her late 40’s who had a surprise new baby and was back in the newborn haze. She was running through Old Navy for a few baby items, and got stuck in an endless line that would never move. As she stood there getting more and more infuriated, she finally woke up to realize she has been standing for twenty minutes -behind an Old Navy mannequin.” Huffington Post
2. I have battled with insomnia ever since I began in the ministry. In 2 Corinthians 1:8, Paul says he, “despaired even of life.” In 2 Corinthians 11:27-28, he lists some of his stresses, “ in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night… And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
3. I am not going to ask for a show of hands, but many of you have heard your doctor ask, “Are you under stress?” I guess somewhere there must be some people who aren’t. I don’t know many of them, I wouldn’t think. And stress sometimes breeds insomnia. Not always, but sometimes.
4. Of course people have easy solutions for complex problems: try melatonin or magnesium or breathing a certain way or counting sheep. Some would take a spiritually superior position and say “trust the Lord and pray.” Like Paul didn’t.
5. The psalmist in our Psalm is afflicted with insomnia, but he also did all the right things — yet he was so distressed that he could not sleep.
A few ambiguities in the Hebrew in this Psalm.
Main Idea: How can we cope when God lets things go on in our lives that are heart-rending — and it feels like He shows no interest in our plight?
Although this Psalm does not answer that elusive question, it does provide us with an example of how to cope.
I. Insomnia: The Psalmist Tries to FIGURE OUT Why God Has Allowed So Much Misery in His Life (1-10).
A. He tries to PRAY and lament before the Lord (1-2).
Literally: “My voice to God” (no verb)
1. He tirelessly STRETCHES his arms out in prayer
2. But he cannot find COMFORT
B. He remembers God’s CHARACTER (3-4).
1. But he still moans
2. His spirit becomes demoralized and weak
3. All he has to show for it is insomnia and a loss for words
4. Contrary to a lot of songs, worshipping God is not a cure all.
C. He considered God’s work when he was YOUNGER (5-6).
1. In the past, he had insomnia because he was EXCITED.
2. He was singing joyful SONGS rather than laments.
D. He is PERPLEXED at why God allowed what He allowed (7-10).
1. People confused DOUBTING with being perplexed.
• We need to be honest about how we feel; many of us lie to ourselves and tell ourselves how we should feel, which may not be how we do feel.
• The first step to being truly honest is being honest with ourselves.
• Some forms of Christianity train people to lie to themselves — like name it and claim it, or the view that every prayer is answered as we ask it — if we have faith.
2. God had been GRACIOUS, has His anger destroyed grace? (7,9)
3. God had faithfully loved, is it at an END?(8a)
4. Are God’s PROMISES no longer active? (8b)
5. Has God CHANGED? (10)
NASB is better here, “Then I said, “It is my grief, That the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
It comes as a surprise to many in our culture that we believe God has not changed, and we believe his Word is true and meant to be understood as the original audience would have understood it.
How can we cope when God lets things go on in our lives that are heart-rending — and it feels like He shows no interest in our plight?
II. An Anchor: Remembering God’s Clear DEMONSTRATION of His Love for Us (11-20)
A. The Psalmist contemplates the bigger picture; not his personal past, but God’s power manifested as He takes HISTORY in His direction (11-20).
1. God redeemed ALL the people of Israel from Egypt.
2. In POETIC fashion, he describe the Exodus.
3. An ongoing commitment: God gave them Moses and AARON
B. We cannot makes sense of the specifics, but we can better see God’s working in the big SCHEME of things.
Sometimes we can detect His mercies in this life.
Corrie ten Boom in The Hiding Place relates an incident that taught her always to be thankful. She and her sister, Betsy, had just been transferred to the worst German prison camp they had seen yet, Ravensbruck. On entering the barracks, they found them extremely overcrowded and flea-infested. That morning, their Scripture reading in 1 Thessalonians had reminded them to rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances. Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters.